The first refugees to take part in a government refugee resettlement scheme have arrived in the UK. The programme will be run on a quota basis, initially set at 500 people a year. It is one of many resettlement schemes which operate around the world under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is responsible for identifying refugees who are particularly vulnerable and in need of long-term protection, to settle in other countries.
Under the UK scheme, the Home Office is responsible for deciding which refugees it will offer protection in the UK. The first group of refugees to arrive in the UK escaped war in Liberia and have been living in refugee camps in the region for up to ten years.
In response to UK participation in the programme, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We wholeheartedly welcome this programme which will provide a safe channel for very vulnerable refugees to reach the safety of Britain.
“We are particularly pleased that the British government has joined many other countries worldwide, such as the USA and Holland, to participate in this international scheme run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Britain’s role in the scheme is a real sign of commitment from the government to provide shelter to refugees who have fled torture, rape and conflict.
“The programme provides long-term solutions for refugees who are unable to return home because of the trauma they have experienced and the instability of their country.
“We are working alongside the Home Office, UNHCR and local authorities to make this programme a huge success. We hope it will be extended to other refugees, to help them rebuild their lives and be a step towards reducing the demand for unscrupulous traffickers who abuse their plight, taking their money and placing them in danger.”
Background briefing on the refugee sector’s role in the UK resettlement programme
The refugee resettlement programme, designed by UNHCR and operated worldwide, resettles about 100,000 refugees every year, allowing people to rebuild their lives in safety and security.
A group of voluntary sector refugee organisations are working together, under the Resettlement Interagency Partnership, to provide information, advice and support to this group of refugees both before they arrive and once they are in the UK.
The Resettlement Interagency Partnership consists of eight NGOs co-ordinated by the Refugee Council and includes the British Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, Migrant Helpline, Refugee Action, Refugee Arrivals Project (RAP), Refugee Housing Association and the Scottish Refugee Council.
This partnership will provide specialist support to the refugees coming to the UK to meet their needs and aid their integration into the community. This support includes:
- Pre-arrival information
- help finding employment
- identifying volunteering opportunities
- English classes
The first group of arrivals come from West and Central Africa, primarily from Liberia, and have been living in refugee camps in West Africa.
The programme is fully funded by the Home Office, which is working with the Resettlement Interagency Partnership, UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration, local authorities, the Department for Work and Pensions and other government departments.
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